Is personal application necessary: part two

Our contributor “emeritus” Jerry Wragg has weighed in with the following helpful comment:

“Preaching for life change is the duty of all shepherds charged with
feeding the flock. However, just how true life change occurs cannot be
reduced to making general (or even specific) suggestions as to how one
might “practice” the principles of the sermon. What’s the missing piece? I believe the problem arises from not understanding the dynamics of thoroughly preaching the “inner-man” implications of a text before we suggest practical life changes. By implications, I mean every way in which the scriptures confront and expose wrong thinking, errant convictions, unholy motivations, and idolatrous affections. It is not enough to explain the meaning of the ancient text in its context, outline some principles, and then offer circumstantial “ways to apply” the principles. The Bible is
clear that life transformation occurs when the mind is renewed!

Preaching should first renovate the hearers reasoning, confront their humanistic worldview, cement new theological convictions, bring sinful
motivations under the captivity of Christ, and smash all idols of the heart. As I’ve said before, by the time a sermon has traversed these crucial matters of the heart (implications)–first for the original hearers and then for today–practical life changes will become much clearer as the Spirit “applies” the surgical word, renewing the heart and mind.

What about application? Should preachers include practical ways of changing one’s life? Application should involve two kinds of material: (1) The preachers own life changes which have resulted from new convictions, fresh theological depth, and corrected thinking; (2) Exhortations for practical change that naturally and universally rise from the implications of the text. Congregations should be cautioned, however, that such exhortations are limited, and that mere behavioral changes without mind renewal will lead to superficiality, weakness, and hypocrisy. They should be encouraged to walk by faith, think deeply about the implications by meditating on sound biblical truth (a lost practice), and never become dependent upon someone else’s practical applications. Where the universal practice of a principle is obvious, change your life…but the Spirit may desire other specific changes in your personal life that others cannot see and wouldn’t themselves be helped by applying to their lives.”


2 responses to this post.

  1. I’m glad you added this to your first post! Some great stuff here.


  2. Life change only happens as they/we are conformed to the image of Christ. Being too preoccupied with “life change” causes us as preachers to become no more than self-help gurus, Oprahs in the pulpit.

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